I first connected with Haukur Valdimarsson on Facebook back in 2017. The thing that an Icelandic teenager and a guy from Seattle on a collision course with turning 50 had in common was our mutual love for the metal band HAM. (♠) We are HAM! We’ve stayed in touch both via Facebook and on Discogs over the last few years, generally to commiserate about Icelandic metal and punk, particularly favorites like HAM and Skálmöld.
Then out of the blue a few months back I see Haukur tagged in an article about the 2019 winners of Músíktilraunir, a.k.a. Icelandic Music Experiments, a.k.a. Iceland’s Battle of the Bands. Could this be the same Haukur? Did I even know he played guitar? It was, and he does, and his metal band Blóðmör took home this year’s top prize. Oh, and in case I forgot to mention it, Haukur was also recognized as the event’s top guitarist. Damn! I mean sure, if there was an award for the most valuable Microsoft-Excel-user-guy at my company I’d have an outside shot of winning (♣), but to be named the best young axe-wielder in an entire country? That’s pretty great.
Blóðmör (named after Icelandic blood sausage) just put out a five-song digital EP on Bandcamp (HERE) back in June, and I have to say it’s some damn good stuff. I strongly encourage you to head over there, download it, and kick the kids a few bucks – yes, they’re offering it up for free, but I’d be willing to bet any cash they get will be spent on gear, studio time, and other music related stuff, so help ’em out.
I of course took full advantage of my relationship with Haukur and asked if he’d do an interview for Life in the Vinyl Lane, and he readily agreed.
Haurkur, you and I originally connected due to our mutual love of HAM. What metal bands drove your passion for the genre?
My biggest inspirations for writing songs for Blóðmör have been all kinds of bands. Mostly Icelandic but also bands from other countries. HAM has obviously had a massive impact. Then I would have to say the Megadeth has affected me a lot as well. Icelandic punk bands from the 80’s have had an impact on my writing. That would be bands like Purrkur Pillnikk, Fræbbblarnir and Þeyr.
How did Blóðmör come together as a band?
Blóðmör started right after another band I was in called it quits. This was in the fall of 2016. We just wanted to make punk music but we struggled a lot and quit after just a few months. Then in 2018 we got a new drummer and started playing again. Soon we played our first concert and have been in the scene since.
Blóðmör recently won Músíktilraunir, and you were recognized as the best guitarist. What was that experience like, both preparing for it and ultimately winning the competition?
We prepared for Músíktilraunir by rehearsing the songs we were going to play over and over. Even when we knew them 100% we just pushed them even more until they sounded perfect. When we made it to the finals we were so happy but after winning the whole competition we were left speechless. It was an amazing experience.
Your new five-song EP Líkþorn came out in June. How was the experience of recording that album?
Recordings of our EP started in October last year. We went to the studio very inexperienced and basically just didn’t know anything what we were doing. It took a few months to finish the recording, they were over in February this year. After that our friend Biggi from Alchemia started mixing the album and after that Oculus mastered it. Then on June 14. it finally got released.
How were you able to get Óttarr Proppé to join the band on “Frumskógurinn”? How was it working with one of your idols?
I’ve known Óttarr for some time now for a few reasons. So it was easy for me to contact him. He was very open for the idea so he came. It was an amazing experience having him in the studio with us. When I heard him sing to our song for the first time I just couldn’t stop smiling.
What’s next for Blóðmör?
Our next step would be writing enough new material to record a full length album. We have almost 3 new songs ready at the moment, 2 of which we play live already. But I think we will not go to the studio again until we have at least 8-10 songs ready. We will take as much time we will need. I think it’s better to wait rather than doing this in a hurry.
I was intrigued when Haurkur mentioned Purrkur Pillnikk and Fræbbblarnir as influences, because even at first glance there’s more than a bit at punk at play with Blóðmör – after all, the longest song on Líkþorn clocks in at a very un-metal-like 3:04, definitely a departure from the ambitious lengths of so many metal tracks these days. Stylistically there are punk elements as well, though make no mistake – this is guitar-driven metal through-and-through. Right from the opening of the title track “Líkþorn” we’re treated to driving riffs, followed by growled vocals, then right into a classic metal instrumental interlude before reversing course and taking us to the finish line in less time than it takes to make a cup of coffee. But lest you be afraid the guys are going to stay in this zone for the next 12 minutes, au contraire mon frère, because “Klósettið” is a pure rocker, its vocals cadenced in pop punk fashion and slightly at odds with the brief metallic solo burst in the song’s second half. “Skuggalegir Menn” takes us in a doom direction, the vocals going lower and more primal, the rhythm section pulsating with plodding weight, a HAM-esque crusher that still maintains a dose of youthful enthusiasm.
The first time I heard “Frumskógurinn” I stopped dead in my tracks and said out loud to no one in particular (I was home alone at the time), “wait, that’s Óttarr Proppé“, the one and only vocalist for HAM and Dr. Spock! And I have to say he fits perfectly into this track, probably the most punk jam on Líkþorn, one reminiscent of some of the finest first wave Scandinavian punk bands. Óttarr takes the middle of the song in a raspy, accusatory direction before the guys bring it back home perfectly, picking up right where they left off before his vocal interlude. The album closes with “Barnaníðingur”, another rocker characterized by a driving rhythm, though one that picks up speed along the way like a car with no breaks heading down a hill, going faster and faster until the collision at the end that brings the whole thing to a sudden and jarring stop.
I suspect that we’re going to be seeing and hearing a lot more from Blóðmör in the coming years, and hopefully they’ll land a few shows during Airwaves this year so that I can check them out live.
(♠) And the English language, because mercifully for me Haukur’s English is probably better than mine.
(♣) OK, maybe I’d be in the top three… or maybe the top five… but spreadsheets are cool, dammit!